“On the Nature of Things” Book 1 by Lucretius (1st Century BC)

“On the Nature of Things” Book 1 by Lucretius (1st Century BC)


  • Prays to Venus, who’s able to affect the seas, fertility of the land, the rising & setting of the sun, influence on all nature & life
  • Puts love into all things
  • Asks her to appease Mars & lessen the effects on war so Lucretius & others can write
  • Dedicates his work to friend Memmius


  • Starts with Atomic theory: Nature uses atoms to create, feed & grow things
  • They are the building blocks of life, engendering bodies & seeds of all things – form the world


  • Religion causes men to grovel & prostrate selves
  • Epicurus defied religion because he wasn’t impressed by mythology or fearful of divine punishment
    • Then he was able to start exploring nature & measure the unmeasured – something religion previously prevented
  • Religion gives birth to a lot of evil
    • Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter for fair sailing weather
  • Others will call you a heathen or a blasphemer
    • Once you see hardships aren’t infinite, you’ll see that superstitious threats are empty & nonsense
    • We fear torments after death
  • Men don’t know what the soul is – if it’s born or dies or if it’s eternal, if it’s condemned to hell or reincarnated
    • We only believe that an afterlife exists because we’re told it does
  • To find out if it’s true, we’ll need to have good reasoning to investigate the nature of the mind & soul
  • We Latins have to borrow much from the Greeks & need to increase the complexity of our language in order to explore this


  • Nothing comes from nothing
  • We usually attribute to the gods the things we don’t see or understand
    • Once we realize that nothing comes from nothing, we can start to see what’s going on without needing gods to explain everything
  • If it something could come from nothing, anything can be born without seed
    • People would pop up from anywhere, birds would just appear in the sky & cows could be born to pigs
    • Everything has its own engendering matter & mother it comes from
  • Creatures come from seeds & need atoms to be born
  • Things can’t just come from just anything either
    • Inner capacities make things what they are & come from similar things under certain conditions at certain times
    • They grow when nourished by things suitable to them under suitable conditions
    • If deprived of nourishment & suitable conditions, nothing can grow or survive


  • Nature dissolves all things but not into nothing
    • If it did, things would just vanish in front of us all the time
  • Nature allows no death of matter, otherwise anything destructible would have been destroyed before
  • Atoms that make & replenish the world have endured the past & are immortal
    • they can never revert to nothingness
    • Atoms are bound together with other atoms to make different things but the building blocks are the same
  • Shapes remain until something strong enough can destroy that structure & only constituent atoms remain
  • Nature restores one things with another & one birth never comes without a corresponding death


  • If nothing comes from nothing & nothing turns into nothing, let’s see what these unseen atoms/particles are
  • The wind moves oceans, ships, clouds, fields, knocks over trees & shapes the land
    • Causes destruction to bridges, houses & forests
  • Smells, heat, cold & sounds exist but we just can’t see them.
  • The damp ruins things & keeps things wet without us seeing it
  • All things whither, erode – metals, stone, pavement
    • They all disintegrate at a level so small that we can’t see it


  • Empty space exists between atoms – otherwise the universe would be so full that nothing could move & nothing could ever be created
  • Even solid-looking things have gaps
    • Water gets into anything
    • Trees & animals grow & nourish themselves seemingly from nothing
    • Cold gets into sealed houses by way of atoms
  • Things of the same size can be of different weights which means that things have different densities
    • Lighter things have more void in them & heavier things have less void in them
  • In contrast to the idea that fish fins will push water out of the way to allow them space to move
    • But where does the displaced water go?
    • When two bodies collide, where does the air between them go?
    • What happens to emptiness when a container is filled?
  • To Memmius – You’ve got to admit there are spaces between things
    • Although it’s hard to see, there’s plenty of evidence
    • Every piece of evidence will lead to another & we can build a model of the world & universe based on it without any flaws


  • Anyway, there are 2 things in the universe: atoms & void
    • There’s nothing else – no 3rd thing
    • Strange things can happen but they involve those 2 things interacting at an invisible level
    • Nothing can be moved if it hasn’t got matter because matter provides location, size, etc.
  • Anything else is either a “property” or “accident” of matter & space
    • Matter can’t be divided without being destroyed
    • All bodies are touchable but not the space between
    • Different states that these things exist in are “accidents” of their being
    • Past events don’t exist like matter does. They are just events that have happened to matter & may or may not have caused the matter to exist in the state it exists in
  • First beginnings – no force can quell atoms & their walls can withstand any blow
    • Strange when you think of how lightning can penetrate any house or boiling water can break rock or metals can melt
      • These are the seeds of all the world
  • Nature [matter & void] must exist in pure form alone at some level
    • A void is where there is no matter & atoms are where there is no void
    • If there were no void, everything would be a solid & if there were no solids, everything would be void
    • Each one marks the fullness or emptiness of the other
    • Atoms can’t be destroyed or withered & therefore are everlasting, otherwise they’d have withered away already
  • Nature has set a limit to the divisibility of matter – atoms – to the point where they can no longer be split up because otherwise they’d be reduced to nothing
    • But they have a limit & that is the point where matter can bond together after falling apart
  • Atoms have a point where they’re irreducible – the minimal atomic point – a unitary base for something else: the atom
    • These are nature’s sees – solid, indestructible & everlasting


  • Those who think the universe is made of fire are wrong
    • Heraclitus & co. just said these things that sound interesting but how can everything be made from fire?
    • We see too much in the world without the qualities of fire
    • You’d wonder what the fire is burning & why it ever dies down or smoke isn’t everywhere
    • Seems like the universe would collapse too easily if this were the case
  • Some say that the universe is made of only air or water or some combination of a couple of the 4 elements
    • Empedocles from Sicily thought everything is fire because he grew up next to Mt. Aetna which exploded constantly
    • They all believed too much in the Oracles, who are known for spouting out bullshit
    • Again, if things were any other way from my theory of indestructible atoms, we’d have no universe at all because it would have fallen apart or would never have been formed to begin with
    • Those who claim that we’re all nourished by the earth along with air & that gives us food are missing the point
      • Where do all those things come from? Atoms form the air, the earth, the seas, & the sun. They feed everything
  • Anaxagoras believed in “Homoeomeria” where things are all made up tiny versions of themselves
    • E.g. Bones are made of teeny tiny bones, a chunk of flesh is made of tiny clunks of flesh & blood is made of tiny drops of blood.
    • Sure, things may be clumped together but to say that blood is nothing more than other blood still leaves us not really knowing what blood is
      • Is a tree that grows from earth made of earth? Or is the earth made of tree?
      • He claims everything is a mixture of other things – Not really much of an explanation.
    • This focuses too much on external appearances & not enough on constituent parts
      • Any analysis on this causes the whole thing to fall apart & has nothing to compare to my atomic theory


  • Lucretius knows he’s laying some heavy shit on us but he believes that knowing the source of all life, matter, etc. can really help us out & is a sort of medicine for the soul that will free us from superstition & religion, & will allow us to know that atoms are the beginning of the real nature of things
  • Beyond atoms lies another question:
    • Is there an infinite number of atoms & an infinite amount of void in nature?
    • Nothing can be limited without some kind of boundary
    • If you stood at the edge of the universe & threw a spear, where would it go? Would it fly out or would it bounce off a wall?
      • What’s beyond that wall?
    • There’s no limit to the void & no limit to the atoms
  • There’s no bottom to the world & no limit to where atoms go
    • Everything limits something else – hills divide air, air separates on hill from another but there’s nothing beyond the entirety to close it in
  • Space is so infinite that light couldn’t travel across it if given all of eternity to do so because it has no end
    • Nature constrains the world from granting a limit & for atoms to be bounded by voids & therefore bounding the void
  • Things take shape & form by atoms bouncing around & eventually collecting together
    • This goes on until the earth is created, seas & rivers form & the sky comes into being
      • Eventually matter forms to create animals & with their seed within them, new animals are created
      • All the while, the animals feed on each other & plants that grow from the earth to continue the process of creation & destruction
      • The atoms still pinging around out there will arrive to supply the cycle & some within the cycle with be set free
  • Since both the void & matter are infinite in every direction, that would mean that there is no center to the universe
    • Although we see sky as up, & water & earth as down, there is no center because it’s all infinite
  • There’s nothing but atoms & void in the universe.

Author: knowit68

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